After the Whistle: Oil industry adds challenges to Watford City athletic programs

After The Whistle

The Watford City Wolves football team is unlike any other in the state. The lineup they start with on Monday can be completely different come game time.

“I can’t imagine too many other people being in the same situation,” said Justin Johnsrud, head coach.

Johnsrud has been the head coach since 2014 and assistant since 2007. During his time, they were state champs in 2008 and a semi-final team in 2017.

But the last few years, it’s been difficult to find success under the Friday Night Lights.

“You talk about football teams returning all their starters and how they ahead of the game they’re going to be and it just hasn’t been the case for us and our situation,” Johnsrud said.

Of the 13 seniors on the team, only three of them have lived in Watford since elementary school.

Senior Kanyon Tschetter is one of them.

“We’ve been working our whole lives and it’s been hard without the chemistry we’ve had in my grade alone we’ve had 10 kids move away they were all starters at one point and if they would’ve stuck with us through the whole high school career we could be a very good football team,” said Tschetter.

“The senior class this year were sophomores in that first season and I think we won one game. We felt excited you know by the time they’re seniors we have a lot of experience hopefully we can get something going. Well, then, fate would have it we bump up in class and play some bigger schools this year and have struggled this year kind of with some of the size restrictions. Some of the God-given things that you can’t really coach,” Johnsrud said.

And with kids constantly moving in and out of Watford City, they say it’s been difficult to build a consistent team.

“Two years ago, we had kind of put in a little bit different offense. We had about three pretty good running back’s coming back that were going to be sophomores. Got to the first day and only one of them was back. So now you’re kind of back at the drawing board not having maybe the right personnel to put in those other places so you kind of change things up to make it fit the guys that you have,” Johnsrud said.

“You’ve had to learn people’s names the past few years with new kids that move in or the younger kids because you don’t know anybody anymore,” said Tschetter.

Senior Tracyn Romans played his first and last year with the Wolves.

He moved here from New Mexico earlier this year.

“It was definitely intimidating but I came to realize really fast that everyone was really accepting and everyone in the whole community and I started fitting in really fast,” Romans said.

And his story is a familiar one for this team.

“When new guys show up it’s really inviting because there’s probably five or six other new guys who know exactly what they’re going through. They’re one downside that I can’t quite get used to is when somebody comes in and says they’re moving it’s not like a big deal it’s just kind of oh that’s too bad but it happens so often that our kids are kind of I don’t want to say expect it but our kids really have just had to be okay with it,” Johnsrud said.

Johnsrud says another struggle is the number of kids who decide to go out for football.

“Our football numbers haven’t been any better than when we were in school a third of the size,” Johnsrud said.

But having a revolving door of athletes isn’t all doom and gloom.

They say getting new kids means new perspectives of the game that they maybe haven’t thought of before.

“The impressive part to me is the ‘try.’ Not a lot of kids would come out for sports year, after year, after year and not really have a lot of success in the win column. But the kids we have even though even just a struggle we’ve had over the last few years, they keep coming back. Their resiliency amazes me all the time and it’ll go a long way in preparing them for all things after football which is what it’s supposed to do,” Johnsrud said.

“What keeps me coming back out is I love the sport and I love my friends,” said Tschetter.

“It’s the games where like we walk away with little mistakes and we give it everything we have. And you know, something to be proud of him even if he didn’t take home the win,” Romans said.

Building a football culture has been tough, but it’s something they’re working on.

Johnsrud says they’re looking at the number of kids in elementary school and how long they’ve lived here. He says they’re hopeful it’ll turn this program around.

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